What to Expect When Going Through a Divorce

concept of section of property after divorce.

What to Expect When Going Through a Divorce

Getting a divorce can slam you with a mix of emotions. You can feel angry, frustrated, drained, confused and just plain overwhelmed. Many who are savvy in other aspects of their lives often feel completely out of their element when going through a divorce. They are just dropped into a new environment and expected to hit the ground running. Just realize that you are still on earth, not the surface of the moon. There are certain things to expect when going through a divorce, just as going through anything else. If you know what to expect, what you will be up against, you can prepare yourself and manage your expectations. This is one of the most important things you can do because it can safeguard you, and help you better transition. Those who don’t manage their expectations will often get steamrolled by the process. Then afterward they are stuck in a fog, bitter, crushed or the walking wounded. They have difficulty moving on and instead wallow in what has happened to them. A more natural and healthier transition is grieving, healing and then jumping in and exploring the new you. Here is what to expect when going through a divorce.

Don’t think that TV courtroom dramas are the real thing, they aren’t. The legal system can take forever. What’s more, the complexities may want to make you pull out your hair. Even an uncontentious divorce with no kids can take a while. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Take some time out for you, even if it’s just twenty minutes or a half hour a day to unwind. Read, watch something funny, or do whatever it is that relaxes you. Reach out to your social network. Seek out friends and family. Have good long talks with those who are close to you. That’s what they are there for. Expect to need to vent. This is a serious time in your life, and you will need support. It’s okay to reach out and talk to someone you feel close to. Usually, it takes a brave person to ask. But you’ll find that people can’t wait to help you. Expect to be collecting documentation. Make sure to have all of your paperwork, financial and otherwise in a row. Insurance, credit card statements, bank statements, investments, property and more have to be negotiated. Make sure to get a good divorce attorney who has a solid reputation and lots of experience. Do your homework. Expect to work closely with your lawyer and perhaps consider hiring other professionals such as a forensic accountant if you think that your soon-to-be ex-spouse is hiding assets.

Typically one person wants to work out the marriage, the other to leave it. Expect time to crawl by if you want out, and it to race by if you wanted to work things out. Everyone no matter what position they are in in a divorce feels as though they are at a disadvantage. Everyone feels knocked off kilter. Sometimes the one being dumped makes things drag along. At other times the one who wants out feels that they would give anything just to have it over. One may be in shock at this time. Or just in pain. Expect that some friends are just going to fall on your ex’s side, and be okay with that, or at least come to terms with it. That said, you can still have relationships with people you feel close to no matter whose friend they were first. Expect financial changes. Make a budget and stick to it. If you need help, seek out financial counseling, or free financial counseling in your area. Expect to be under a lot of stress and strain. You may absolutely hate your ex-spouse and something might slip out. Or you could lose it at some point. But it’s okay. It happens. We’re only human. People will understand. Give yourself a break. You may feel like a failure, but it just didn’t work out. It’s no one’s fault. Still, a sense of clarity and understanding will come to you if you just let it work its way to you naturally. If you have children, they will be affected by the divorce, study up on it, expect it and do the right thing. Be there for them. Studies have shown that children can be just as healthy, happy and well-adjusted as long as you help them adjust. When you start your new life and your new love life expect to make errors, and don’t wallow in them. Just keep it moving and some day it will be all behind you.  To have your own personal analyst in your pocket to help you through this trying time, pick up a copy of, Divorce Guide Vol. 1: The Pocket Therapist (The Pocket Therapist Series) by Dr. Mel Gill.

Should you see a Relationship Counselor or a Divorce Attorney?

Young troubled couple isolated on white.

Should you see a Relationship Counselor or a Divorce Attorney?

It’s hard to know sometimes when a marriage is over and when to give it a second chance. What is required is some knowledge, soul searching and some perspective. Some people wonder if their spouse will really change through counseling, or if the two can really revive the marriage or if it will be on life support until you pull the plug. The truth is that every relationship is unique and different. So how do you know if you should see a relationship counselor or a divorce attorney? There are many important things to evaluate before answering that question. First, let your mind go and think about the future. Daydream about it. Make it a happy place. Is your spouse there? Or are you doing something else without them? This little exercise can tip off how your subconscious feels about your spouse. If starting your own business, traveling to foreign lands or hiking the Himalayas sounds like heaven to you, you may want to see the divorce attorney. But if you can’t see it without your spouse, the counselor may be your best bet. If you are having marital issues that you think could be resolved, and it is one or two issues that are the stumbling block, give the counselor a try. Seeing a counselor sooner rather than later, when the problems are deep seeded or more pronounced, is better if possible. But most people wait until the problem is overwhelming.

Think about the negative emotions surrounding your marriage. Frustration, anger, hurt, jealousy and guilt can all inhabit a marriage. Are these emotions overwhelming? Can you get past them? Bitterness, resentment and rage are often things that couples can’t get past. See how deep seeded and how developed these emotions are, whether you are harboring them, your spouse or both. If you think your problems are solvable if a counselor gives you a new perspective and a new angle on how to attack them, certainly give the counselor a try first. But if one or both parties can’t get past deep seeded negative emotions than it’s time to give the lawyer a call. The end all be all of the matter is that neither professional will out and out tell you it’s time to divorce. That is simply a matter for one or both of you to decide. There are those couples who go through divorce proceedings only to end up together again. Then there are others who go to relationship counselors forever without making any headway. Remember that a divorce attorney’s retainer is usually refundable. Know that most people don’t know exactly what to do. But there are steps to help you try to figure it out. For another option, read Should I Stay Or Go?: How Controlled Separation (CS) Can Save Your Marriage by Lee Raffel.

Common Divorce Stages

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Common Divorce Stages

Although every couple is very different, the stages of divorce are fairly common.  For most there is usually a long and protracted teetering between divorce and staying together. When all hope is lost, when one person if not both decides that they can no longer be happy in the relationship and all methods of reconciliation are lost it’s usually decided upon that divorce is the right way forward. Most of the time, one person wants to stay in the relationship and try to work it out while the other thinks the marriage has no way of being resurrected. Divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Luckily, since it is no longer uncommon, there is lots of advice and support services available. Many people today want to pivot away from long, drawn out legal battles and bitter fights and instead have a more peaceful, smooth and consolatory process,  much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling.” The first stage is realization. Even if you are the advocate for the divorce, it can feel unreal, like it’s not really happening. If your spouse has suddenly told you they want a divorce, the shock may take time to wear off. Usually one party at this point is in denial. At this stage it’s important to let go of blame, of fault and of guilt. Those emotions, while valid, won’t get you anywhere. Pointing the finger at your spouse may make you feel better momentarily, but in the end the hurt is still there, just as deep and as poignant as ever. Learn to let go. Look for moments of clarity. Let go of blame. Seek out something instead that will soothe the hurt. Feel the feelings you have but couch them where they belong, don’t run away with them. Instead, put them in the proper context and move on.

The next stage is worrying whether or not you are going to enter into a horrifying divorce. Stories of bitter struggles, litigation that turn into yearlong drag outs, custody battles, destroyed property, hidden assets and on and on can really drive us crazy and make us fearful. But is that really who your ex is? You should know them by now, including what they are capable of. Don’t assume your divorce will be like your parents’ or that your children will feel as you did when your parents divorced. Instead, understand who you both are, be calm and professional and try to have the divorce you two are having in the best possible manner instead of enduring what you think might come your way. Certainly you should prepare, but don’t assume or keep yourself up at night with storylines that may or may not be true. Try to show your former partner that you want this divorce to be mature, go smoothly and you want it to have mutual respect throughout the process. What are your priorities for this divorce? Write down a list of everything you want, everything you think your spouse should want and possible areas of compromise. Remember these priorities and values and stick to them throughout the divorce.

Meet up with your friends and family, but take their dating advice with a grain of salt. Their divorce is not your divorce either. Their divorce is perhaps in many ways different than yours. Instead, make sure the divorce advice you seek makes sense to your situation. Think about it and make sure it fits. Also seek out the advice of professionals; a lawyer, a financial planner and a counselor are just some of the professionals that can help you through this trying time. If you feel stuck, understand it’s a common feeling. You won’t feel stuck forever. Let yourself cry it out if that’s what you need to do. Take breaks from the stress of divorce. Spend time with friends and family, journal, make a dream board, and make plans on what you want to do once this is all over. Some people plan a divorce party, why not plan your own? It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just some friends, some drinks and a cake is quite enough. Why not dream about your divorce party when things get tough? Learn to center yourself. Trust is what you feel is right, don’t second-guess every decision. Stick to your priorities. If your spouse starts acting like a monster, that doesn’t mean you should return in kind. Keep your dignity and your self-respect. Protect yourself and get what you think is fair in the settlement but don’t bring yourself down to their level. Always conduct yourself with dignity and integrity. Each person in the process, from your lawyer to the judge, will notice and it will play out in your favor. Once you are ready understand that you will grieve and perhaps go through the stages of grief. Find ways to console yourself. Seek out the people in your social network. Take time out to unwind. Reconnect with yourself. Think about what new direction you want to go in life and start moving there. For more, pick up a copy of On Your Own Again: The Down-to-Earth Guide to Getting through a Divorce or Separation and Getting on with Your Life by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming.

Managing the Cost of Divorce

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Managing the Cost of Divorce

A wedding is one of the most expensive events in your life, but a divorce is a close runner up. According to CNNMoney a typical wedding costs around $30,000. The Huffington Post reports that the average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000. Of course your wedding may not have cost that much and your divorce may not either. But these kinds of figures will stop your heart if you have to endure them. There are lots of things to pay for; legal bills, court fees, and if you need a forensic accountant or a private investigator your fees could skyrocket. It can be very easy to rack up the bills, particularly if your thoughts are clouded by revenge. Instead of an all-out war that may leave both of you financially barren, why not take a sensible approach, managing the divorce to cut the cost and give you both the chance at a brighter future? One of the most costly things is when a lawyer is used not to make sure that assets are split adequately but to get revenge. Chair of the family law practice at the law firm Brach Eichler, Carl Soranno says, “They go in with the feeling of revenge. Their lawyer is their champion. They love putting together 50-page certifications of all the bad things their spouse did — until about six months in, when you’ve spent your 401(k) or your child’s college fund.” Remember that divorce isn’t about the past, it’s about the future. Don’t sink $3,000 on legal fees fighting over who will buy your kids $200 jacket. If you can’t seem to put your emotions aside, see a therapist. It will be less expensive and healthier for you and your future.

If you are going to get a divorce, don’t go in blind. Do some research. Realize that divorce laws can vary from state to state, so find out what you can about your state’s divorce laws. This way when you need to hire a professional you know what you are talking about and won’t waste time. If you can, why not share pertinent information with your soon-to-be ex-spouse? Saving time is saving money. What’s more, lawyers usually charge by the hour, even with phone calls. Getting right to the point is important. So the more you know the less it should cost you. This doesn’t just mean in the legal sense. Get educated on financial matters as well. Really, divorce is a numbers game, particularly about finances. Do some research online. Look for some free courses. Talk to a financial planner. There are even financial planners out there today who handle divorce, called divorced financial analysts. Make sure they are certified with a good reputation. These planners can help you get a sense of what the assets are, how the negotiations should go, they can generate income and expense reports, and sort out matters to do with wills, insurance, taxes, credit and so on. One of the most time-consuming processes of a divorce is paperwork. You will have to gather it all together. Your attorney should know what you need. Talk to the financial planner as they will have advice on the subject. too. Bring all the documents you need when you have a meeting with your lawyer so as not to waste time and to save money. It makes your lawyer’s job easier and more efficient, too.

Look at your divorce as asset management. If you want $10,000 out of your joint investment but it’s going to take a year and $8,000 for you to get it, is it really worth it? Write down a list of what you really want, from your 401K to real estate, and sort it out with the financial planner and/or lawyer. Be as efficient with your lawyer as possible. Don’t think that your divorce will be different. Of course it might be. But it’s better to keep all your ducks in a row and be as organized and efficient as possible. To learn how to save yourself all kinds of hassles throughout the course of your love life, read The New Love Deal: Everything You Must Know Before Marrying, Moving In, or Moving On! by Michele Lowrance.

Are There Really So Many Deadbeat Dads?

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Are There Really So Many Deadbeat Dads?

You hear about deadbeat dads more and more nowadays. But are there really so many dads who forego their legal and parental responsibilities? Or is it more hype than reality? The truth is that 66% of dads who can’t come up with enough child support actually can’t afford it. So should we really see them as deadbeats? Most of these men love their children and want what is best for them. There are those men, due to how custody orders play out, who hardly get to see their children, if at all. On top of that, there are punitive laws for those fathers who fail to pay their obligation. Income tax returns can be taken, wages can be garnished, they can even suspend your driver’s license. How are you supposed to work to earn the money for back child support if you can’t drive to work to earn the money to begin with? If the father gets too behind in some states he can do up to a year in jail. Without the money to pay attorney’s fees, he will be at the whim of an uncaring legal system that will see him as a bad person who deserves to be punished. The result is that there are dads in prison who can’t see their kids nor earn the money to try and provide for them.

So are there really so many deadbeat dads, or is the problem by and large an economic problem? Lack of access to employment is one of the biggest problems. Years ago women were the losers in divorce court. But today, women generally are given the upper hand. Laws need to change to accommodate for specific cases. Child support should be allocated based on what a person can afford to pay. Visitation should be allowed and encouraged. Fathers and children should have a chance to be in each other’s lives. But sometimes this crazy world gets in the way. Statistics have shown that when a father is in a child’s life, they have higher self-esteem, do better in school and on standardized tests, and have less trouble with teenage pregnancy, illegal drugs and the law. We should as a society do everything possible to make sure parents and children can be together and support one another and not let the law or financial issues get in the way from that happening. Consciousness is already starting to take shape on this issue. Be on the forefront and let others know what you know, and what your situation is should this issue touch you in your life. For advice on how to be a good father, read How to Be a Good Divorced Dad by Jeffery M. Leving.